As designers developing online courses, we’re always looking for purposeful ways to ensure that the instructor, content, and student interactions are strategic, cohesive, and meaningful.
What’s more, we are also tasked with staying abreast of and introducing faculty to research, theories, and methodology associated with constructing rigorous and effective online pedagogy.
At the 27th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching & Learning, the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework was the focus of several sessions including sessions from Northwestern University, the University of Illinois Springfield, and Capella University. Intrigued by the implications of the framework, I wanted to learn more about the framework’s efficacy in higher education.
The premise of the CoI framework suggests that creating an effective online experience requires a collaborative community. The CoI framework, developed by Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000) is defined as follows:
An educational community of inquiry is a group of individuals who collaboratively engage in purposeful critical discourse and reflection to construct personal meaning and confirm mutual understanding.
The Community of Inquiry theoretical framework represents a process of creating a deep and meaningful (collaborative-constructivist) learning experience through the development of three interdependent elements—social, cognitive, and teaching presence.
- Social presence is “the ability of participants to identify with the community (e.g., course of study), communicate purposefully in a trusting environment, and develop inter-personal relationships by way of projecting their individual personalities” (Garrison, 2009).
- Teaching Presence is the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001).
- Cognitive Presence is the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001).
CoI is a framework that many higher-education institutions cite to inform, and in some cases measure, the effectiveness of online-course development.
The granular elements of the CoI Framework are listed in the table below. The “categories” and “indicators” provide explicit examples of how , the CoI model elements can be interpreted by an online-course designer.
Garrison D, Arbaugh J. Researching the community of inquiry framework: Review, issues, and future directions. Internet & Higher Education [serial online]. July 2007;10(3):157-172.
In 2007, a peripheral resource, the CoI survey instrument was developed and ultimately, validated. This survey instrument correlates with the CoI framework and is being utilized in studies at some institutions as an end-of-course evaluative tool.
As a course designer, I’m always looking for ways to equip faculty with a slew of resources to get the wheels turning as they think through the course content and design.
For some professors, it can seem intimidating at the outset of development to segue from teaching face-to-face to online. It’s especially challenging to identify strategies that will translate to meaningful online teaching presence. One strategy to brainstorm ideas for not only teaching presence but cognitive and social as well is utilizing the CoI framework elements to flesh out assessments and learning activities that align with each.
For example, with social presence, the professor can structure discussions via group cohorts that are led by a weekly discussion leader. This strategy allows students to establish a rapport with the cohort members. Additionally, students are empowered and accountable for the content they are charged with leading during their respective week.
Concepts such as these would serve as an invaluable resource to faculty members, especially those new to teaching online. Creating a central repository for faculty members to share and collect resources may serve as a community for online pedagogical strategies.
Garrison D, Arbaugh J. Researching the community of inquiry framework: Review, issues, and future directions. Internet & Higher Education [serial online]. July 2007;10(3):157-172. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed August 29, 2011.
Arbaugh, J.B., Cleveland-Innes, M., Diaz, S.R., Garrison, D.R., Ice, P., Richardson & Swan, K.P. (2008). Developing a community of inquiry instrument: Testing a measure of the Community of Inquiry framework using a multi-institutional sample. The Internet and Higher Education. 11 (3-4), 133-136.